PC REVIEW: DAEMONICA

Daemonica is an adventure game that exhibits poor production values due to an obvious limited budget but doesn't necessarily suffer for it. by Cass Andrusiak

June 16, 2006 - Daemonica is a very playable game and is certainly recommended for adventure fans and those that are looking for something a little different, as long as they can get over the less-than-stellar production values. The game plays out like part CSI, part Diablo and part Gauntlet with several essences thrown in from classic point-and-click adventure style games. It's basically a murder investigation set in medieval times, but it also includes occult overtones in the form of ghosts, demons and magic.

The gameplay is first and foremost fashioned in the adventure genre but there are action elements that include hand-to-hand combat in addition to collecting items, puzzle solving, exploring, character interaction and a little bit of role-playing for good measure. You could say that Daemonica has it all - but not in spades. The pacing of the game is somewhat predictable, even if the storyline isn't. The order of events is formulaic. You could almost expect the routine if this were some hard-boiled New York City detective with a bad attitude but not with this ancient, mysterious shaman.

Set in medieval England, the town of Cavorn is struggling with a dilemma that literally threatens to tear it apart. A young girl was murdered and the accused was recently hanged for his apparent crimes. But many in the town believe he was innocent - and they are afraid of a much darker and sinister explanation. Enter Nicholas Farepoynt, a mysterious stranger with incredible talents to solve such cases. Farepoynt is a tortured soul. His gifts give him no respite. He is hell bent on hunting down the monstrous human killers that wreak havoc on the innocent and administer swift judgement and punishment. He is the Beast Hunter. With partial knowledge of an ancient language known as the language of the demons, or Demonica, he can utter words and phrases to help him in his quests.

Nicholas is an intriguing character. We don't know a lot about him but we know that he had a certain connection to the darkness even though he appears to be on the side of good. He's one of the few characters that are voiced and through his soliloquies we learn more about him. He's eloquent, introspective and pained. We can't but help to want to know everything we can about him. That's good writing.



With the aid of magical potions that Nicholas creates from locating various flowers and herbs, he is able to heal the weak, use them to help solve puzzles and even communicate with the dead. A potion called the Soulgreef puts him in touch with the ghosts of murdered victims where he may learn of their fate and those that were responsible for it. Throughout the game you will talk to a variety of living and non-living entities, piecing together bits of information with physical clues which you can collect and store in your inventory. Talking to the dead isn't as easy as you might imagine. First you have to find all of the ingredients for the potion and then you have to locate the body since it must be in close proximity in order to communicate with its departed soul. This requires getting the body back to your lair without the townsfolk seeing you, as it would unsettle them to no end.

There is nothing particularly difficult about this game but some of the puzzles will bend your mind a little. They may seem a little arbitrary but eventually you'll find that they do in fact relate. Without a back button on the conversation tree some of the conversations require that you replay them from the beginning so that you can ask other questions. You will also have a tendency to run out of plants for your potions, as they don't regenerate and there is no sort of indicator telling you how much you have left.

I give the developers credit for bringing this game to life as much as they did, with 3D environments that you can explore, and still have enough room to move around in for combat. Although the game isn't loaded with action, at least there is some. At the unfortunate end of the aspects the character interaction is relegated to text - and there is a lot of it. Thankfully the writing flows and once you get used to it you'll be doing the characters' voices in your head. When you're engaged in conversation everything else on the screen is static. There is no movement from the characters at all, which makes you think you might be talking to dead person - without going through all the trouble.

Once again, the developers use the medieval backdrop to their advantage by being able to reuse textures of wood and stone and maintain an eerie, gloomy, low light environment. It not only highlights the chilling mood but keeps the costs of game development low, which is a huge consideration since adventure games are not big sellers. The controls are good if not simple. The combat is a nice touch but it could have used just a little more depth to at least bring it into the neighborhood of the hack-and-slash mechanics of something similar to Ninja Gaiden or Samurai Warrior. There isn't much in the way of sound effects. A handful of ambient sounds like creaky doors and floors and unidentifiable animal utterances would have made things creepier. But in the game's defense, the eerie silence allows your mind to take over which can be a lot more frightening. If you're playing this game alone in your room with the lights, TV and stereo turned off, you're probably better off than having the atmosphere ruined by a cheesy sound effect. The music is appropriate for the scenes if not a little subdued. At least it never gets overly dramatic.

The overall pace of the game might be a little too slow for those with an action aptitude. With the handy map you can travel instantly to any location you've already visited. That speeds things up considerably. The journal keeps a record of potions, ingredients, information and various conversations that you've had with other characters for quick reference.

Much of the gameplay in Daemonica is cerebral but it can be a rewarding experience. However, once you've found the killer, don't expect much in the way of replay value.

By Cass Andrusiak
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Daemonica (PC)
4.2
Graphics
It's not an epic looking game but the limited locations look authentic. Not a lot of ambient animation or what you might call "razzle and dazzle."
4.3
Control
The controls are simple but effective. Could use more depth in combat.
3.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There are few voiceovers, and the sound effects are sparse. The music is good but not overwhelming.
3.4
Play Value
Fun to go through once, but you won't find reason to play through a second time.
3.9
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
System: PC
Dev: RA Images
Pub: Meridian4
Release: March 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cass

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best